Being allowed to exit incarceration under the auspices of the probation process has been a great source of support extended to some people who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Probation allows people to begin the long process of rebuilding their lives after being found guilty of a felony offense by being able to work, live independently and spend time with their families and loved ones. The terms of probation are dictated by the court, and monitored stringently for strict compliance.
Over time, probation has also been a great source of restriction and hardship for some as it hinders free travel, thus inhibiting job prospects, and in some cases interferes with parental visitation rights. These difficulties and other circumstances can sometimes lead to a violation of probation or VOP, which is a very serious offense where the person charged can be sent back to prison to serve the maximum term they would have received were it not for the terms of the probation.
When a person has been charged with a VOP, a probation violation lawyer becomes an essential part of their defense, and legal counsel should be contracted as early in the violation process as possible.
What Is Probation?
Depending on the charges the defendant has pleaded guilty to or been convicted of, other extenuating circumstances and/or the attitude of the defendant, felony probation may be ordered by a judge in lieu of prison time. The rationale is a simple one; the average cost to house and feed an inmate in the state of Maryland is over $45,000 per year, and if rehabilitation is the objective, incarceration does not always serve that purpose.
Additionally, the current COVID-19 pandemic situation makes unnecessarily adding to an already overcrowded inmate population inadvisable. Thus, a judge may opt to use their discretion and impose terms under which that convicted person may avoid what would otherwise be a potentially lengthy jail sentence. Successfully completing the probation means the person has paid their debt to society and can move on with their lives. It should be noted that completing probation is not easy, and the terms can be restrictive.
A felony probation term tends to be about 18 months, but the maximum term for a probation sentence can be as high as 25 years. This is in contrast to a misdemeanor probation which tends to be about six months, and is seldom more than a year.
In the state of Maryland, common probation terms can include, but are not limited to:
- Reporting on time and in person to an assigned probation officer on a monthly basis or when requested
- Payment of court costs, fines, and other restitution
- Drug testing as required, drug treatment, and most importantly, drug and alcohol abstinence
- Gainful, regular employment or approved education programs
- No interaction with former associates or questionable locations
- Mandatory treatment classes such as anger management or sex offender treatment
- No further infractions with the law
- No residence changes or trips outside of the immediate residential area without express permission from the probation officer
Violation of Probation – What It Is, What It Means
Probation violations or VOPs are an unfortunately commonplace occurrence in the criminal justice system. A VOP means the convicted person has in some way breached the conditions under which they received probation, and as a result are in danger of being sent back to jail to serve their sentence, and may in fact be in line for even harsher penalties depending on the violation in question.
It is a very bad position for someone to be in, as the standard of proof in a VOP hearing is much lower than it would be in a normal case. In some cases, probation violations can cause a person to stay in the system much longer than would have by just serving their original prison terms. This is where a good probation violation lawyer comes into play.
What Constitutes A Probation Violation?
Any action that is in direct opposition to terms as dictated by a judge can be considered a violation of probation, and it is important for a person on probation to be well acquainted with what they can do, can’t do, and what their rights are under the terms of their probation agreement. It is not uncommon for authorities and probation officers to eagerly submit VOPs petitions before all the facts come out, so being very clear about where the lines are can be critical. A partial list of offenses that could preface a violation include, but are not limited to:
- Failure to pay child support
- Failure to pass a drug test
- Failure to appear before the court
- Commission of another offense
- Failure to meet with a probation officer
There are two types of probation violations.
A Technical Violation of Probation
A technical VOP is any violation that does not involve the commission of a new crime or offense during the period of probation. Probation is ostensibly easier than serving a prison sentence, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Terms of probation can involve sweeping life changes that can be difficult to adhere even under threat of losing one’s freedom. If the court imposes ongoing random drug tests, it can be very difficult for an addict to remain clean and pass a drug test. Failure to do so is considered a technical probation violation. If conditions include maintaining a steady job, a bad economy, or lack of basic job skills can present a fast track back into incarceration by way of a technical violation.
A Substantive Violation of Probation
A substantive probation violation refers to the commission of a new criminal offense during the period of probation. An offender who is out on probation and is then charged with assault, robbery, or drug trafficking for example, has committed a substantive violation of probation, and will likely be put back into jail while also facing trial and penalties for the new felony offense.
Can Bail Be Set for a Probation Violation?
Being arrested for a violation of probation leaves any bond petition up to the discretion of the judge. The decision will be made based on a variety of factors including nature of the crime, nature of the violation, and previous record. It is unlikely that someone who committed a substantive probation violation will be granted bail but it is not impossible. Bail may be granted, but set prohibitively high. Denial of bail on a VOP cannot be appealed.
The Violation Defense Attorneys at Jezic & Moyse Can Help
If you have been apprehended on a felony or misdemeanor probation violation, or have reason to believe you are about to be, let the probation violation defense attorneys at Jezic & Moyse help mitigate the consequences of a VOP. If the expert defense lawyers on our team are brought in early enough, it is entirely possible we can avoid the petition for violation entirely before it is placed before a judge. Our probation violation experts can intercede on your behalf, work with your probation officer and the courts, to correct any mistakes or misunderstandings before they affect your freedom and your life.
Call Jezic & Moyse Today!
The legal experts at Jezic & Moyse are here to help protect your rights and give you every chance to avoid becoming entrenched in the legal system. We do this by providing the experienced legal representation that has been built by nearly 30 years navigating the intricacies of the Maryland legal system. We’re looking forward to putting that legal experience to work for you.
Contact Jezic & Moyse now for a free phone consultation.